Chiang Rai in Northern Thailand is a magical gem that is a gateway to the neighboring countries of Myanmar and Laos. The city itself is quite unspectacular compared to other Thai cities but quant in its own little way.
Most people go to Chiang Rai on the way to the border. The main border town is Mae Sai which is just outside the city and boast the northerly most point of Thailand. You can cross into Myanmar through this land border as many people do every day. There is a nice market in this town with every trinket and souvenir you can find from Thailand and Myanmar.
Further around is the famous Golden Triangle where the Mekong River cuts divided Thailand with Myanmar in the north east and Laos over to the west. You can take a boat trip from Thailand up and down the Mekong and see both countries, your name will be taken before you get on the boat to make sure you disembark in the same country. There is a nice restaurant that overlooks the river and you can see the casino’s in Myanmar and huge resorts being built in Laos to welcome the influx of Chinese tourists that arrive on the Mekong River boats.
Further outside Chiang Rai is the White Temple about 14km away, its official name being Wat Rong Khun which is a site to behold. The picture above shows the bridge over the cycle of rebirth where thousands of hands try to pull you over the bridge as you move towards the temple. It is to symbolize that to enjoy happiness you need to leave behind temptation, greed and desire. Once inside the temple you will see an amazing array of artwork both traditional and modern. You will even find some contemporary pop icons such as Michael Jackson, Superman and Hello Kitty sketches.
Chiang Rai is worth a visit and stop off even if you are just passing through on the way to other countries and I would recommend spending a couple of days looking around.